June 9, another anti-logging activist was killed in the Brazilian northern state
of Pará. The victim, Obede Loyla Souza, a 31-year-old father of three, was an
agro-extractivist, or member of a rainforest community whose livelihood is based
on the sustainable harvesting of forest products. His is the fifth murder
reported in the last three weeks. President Dilma Rousseff’s deployment of
National Security Forces is apparently not enough to deter the loggers and large
agribusiness producers who are deforesting the Amazon rainforest. Peasant
organizations are calling for a comprehensive agrarian reform to be implemented
Sirel, “Guto” dos
Santos, president of the Federation of Agricultural Workers of Pará (FETAGRI-PA),
informed that “Obede Loyla was a member of the Esperança
settlement, located in the municipality of Pacajá, state of Pará. We’re still
checking the reports we received, but we do know that he was killed with a
bullet to the head, inside the settlement and only a few hundred meters from his
the first testimonies gathered at the scene, Loyla “had had an incident
some months ago with loggers whom he had caught in the act of cutting valuable
trees in the settlement’s land. It’s very likely that this argument was what
cost him his life now,” Guto said.
“We’re contacting the authorities at the highest levels, calling on them to take
more efficient measures to stop the violence caused by logging and agribusiness
consortiums in the region,” he noted.
Messengers of death
A growing death toll
On May 24,
José Claudio Ribeiro and María do Espírito Santo da Silva, a husband
and wife team of environmental activists who were members of the Praia Alta-Piranheira
Agro-Extractivist Project, were ambushed and killed in the Pará municipality of
that, another agro-extractivist settler, Herenilton Pereira, and possible
witness of the double crime, was also murdered.
On May 27,
peasant leader Adelino Ramos was shot dead in Vista Alegre do Abunã,
state of Rondonia.
This time, it
was Obede Loyla Souza’s turn.
information from the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), since 1996, when 19
landless rural workers were slaughtered in what became known as the “Eldorado
dos Carajás Massacre,”
there have been 212 land conflict-related killings in the state of Pará alone;
that’s more than one murder a month in the last 15 years,
not counting those committed in other Brazilian states.
809 people –mostly trade unionist, environmental activists and human rights
defenders– have received death threats. In its June 14 edition, the Rio de
Janeiro newspaper O Globo featured a map of Brazil showing the number and
geographical distribution of these deaths, which illustrates this shocking
here for map).
CPT lawyer José Batista, seven out of every ten murders occur in the
Marabá area, where deforestation is very advanced and there are very few areas
still unaffected by logging.
struggle can be seen clearly in the following figures: “Some 463 fazendas
(agricultural estates) have been occupied since 1996. Nearly 79,000 families
settled there, with 32,000 of them subsequently forced out. In this state of
permanent turmoil, 799 people have been arrested and thrown in jail. The
prospect of changes to the Forest Code and the shifts in state government
policies stepped up the process of deforestation and violence,” Batista
The sale of
rainforest wood is a highly profitable business. For example, a chestnut tree is
currently worth US$ 14,000 in the international market,” Batista
Agrarian reform now!
Great mobilization in
“As we speak,
more than 2,000 rural workers –members of our organization FETAGRI-PA,
MST (Landless Peasant Movement) and FETRAF (National Federation of
Family Agriculture Workers)– are still gathered in a rally in the city of Marabá,”
Dos Santos said.
“We had a
meeting there yesterday to negotiate with the president of the National
Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), Celso Lisboa.
We presented him with demands from social organizations and the response we got
was totally unacceptable, as he only contemplated 20 percent of what we are
murder confirms that strong and truly impartial police and judicial measures are
needed, but it also shows that in order to get to the root of the problem we
need to have public policies that are appropriate for this region, in particular
we need to have more resources to implement an agrarian reform, which is
essential to bring peace to the Amazon rainforest,” Guto dos Santos